John Hales, Sanpete Messenger
Hyrum Hunter of Aurora demonstrates old-fashioned blacksmithing, one of the "Old World Crafts" at the Scandinavian Heritage Festival in Ephraim.

EPHRAIM — The folklore of Sanpete County includes the story of an LDS bishop in Ephraim during the 1800s who, in a church meeting, asked if Brother Peterson would say a prayer.

Several men in the congregation stood up.

"No, I mean Brother Peter Peterson," the bishop clarified.

Only one man sat down.

The story, though it might be apocryphal, nevertheless gives a pretty good illustration of Ephraim's deep Scandinavian roots.

Those roots and the pride that Ephraimites have in their pioneer ancestry were celebrated over the weekend, as they are every year on Memorial Day weekend, at the Scandinavian Heritage Festival in the small central Utah city.

Neither dicey weather nor high gas prices kept Ephraimites, Sanpetities or other 'ites from around the state away from the 20-year-old celebration of Scandinavian culture and pioneer heritage.

Ned "Lars" Larsen was one who made the trek to out-of-the-way Ephraim from his home on the Wasatch Front.

Dressed as a caricature Viking, Larsen said, "We come down every year. We have fun. It's our heritage."

Larsen shared a bit of that heritage. Both sides of Larsen's family (all Scandinavians) lived in Ephraim. They lived on opposite sides of town because the patriarchs of the families didn't like each other. A leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Salt Lake City on a visit to Ephraim one day told them they had better learn to get along because one day the families would be tied together through marriage.

"'Not by a d--- sight,"' one of the men is supposed to have said.

But, Larsen says, "The prophecy came true when my parents were married in 1947."

Though he lives in Riverton, few things keep Larsen and his family from the festival. He's attended for 15 years, and this year festival organizers even called him to see if he and his Viking costume were coming.

"We're Scandinavian for sure. That's why we're here," he says.

Thor Nielsen was another perennial festivalgoer that the threat of cold and rain couldn't keep away. (Yes, Thor is his real name.)

Born in Norway and now a Sandy resident, Nielsen has made his way to Ephraim for the past eight years to represent the Sons of Norway organization.

After rain Friday and a cold Saturday morning, a high attendance at the festival was doubtful.

But, Nielsen said, "They came out. They didn't fail us."

In fact, the Viking Feast food booth ran out of potatoes at one point because attendance was so good.

"That's a crime in Norway — to run out of potatoes," Nielsen said.

Nielsen's fellow Son of Norway, Rick Matthews, said he thought the cold might even have been a good thing for the festival.

"It's not too cold, but not warm enough that people are going camping," Matthews said. "I have friends that normally would have gone camping, but they're here."


E-mail: john@desnews.com